When I was younger, I refused to believe that there was such a thing as a mid-life crisis, and, if there was, it certainly wasn’t going to happen to me. I was strong, stable, and securely grounded in my beliefs about God, life, and myself. Other people might be on shaky ground in mid-life but not me. Then, when in my late 40’s my step-father passed away suddenly, I found myself kind of struggling, and soon really struggling, grappling with questions about life and love, God and the church, and my place in the world. My step-father’s death maybe just knocked me off my feet a little, caused me to want to spend time alone, and brought to the surface questions and ideas that had been buried just enough to keep them out of my daily consciousness.
I remember thinking that I had no idea what I believed anymore. It was frightening! I, who had been so smug and certain, didn’t even know how to think. It was like a huge void just enveloped me, and I felt lost. The only thing I knew was that I believed in a loving creator who would surely help me through this dark time, but I had no idea how it would happen. I remember the words coming to me “start with what you do know”, and, as I said, the only thing I felt that I knew for sure was that God was real, He was Love itself, and He would reveal Himself to me. I hung onto that, did a lot of journalling, and just made it my aim to take the steps each day that were presented to me.
Now, several years later, I can truly say that that time in my life was the best time in my life. Tough, to be sure, but I did more growing and changing in that time than I had probably done since I was a baby. I became less judgmental, strikingly aware of the value of each person on earth, and comfortable with change, mystery, and uncertainty. The process is still going on, but I don’t feel lost (at least not most of the time), and I am aware of God’s loving presence in me, around me, and in each person I meet.
A crisis is a turning point. It’s like a crossroads – am I going to keep going down the road I’m on or am I going to switch directions and head into the unknown where, if I am truthful with myself, I feel like I am being guided. Our “natural” tendency is probably to stay on the same road we’ve been on because change is hard, and sometimes we don’t change until staying on the same road is even more painful and difficult than changing directions.
Our country and our world are in crisis right now – some people might say it’s an economic crisis, others an environmental or a climate crisis, still others would say it’s a spiritual or moral crisis, or a health or health care crisis, or a food crisis or education crisis. In my opinion it is all of these because they are all related and they all have the same root cause – the belief that we are separate from God and from each other, there isn’t enough to go around, and if we are going to have a good life, we are going to have to exert external power to make things happen for ourselves regardless of what it does to our planet and the life on it, our neighbors, or the children around the world.
We believe that the things we touch, taste, see, and hear are all that make up reality, and fail to remember that we are first of all spiritual beings, we all have equal value, and the things we think, say, and do each day affect everyone. We also have a tendency not to trust our own hearts and think for ourselves, and, of course, it’s easier not to think at all but just go with the flow of a materialistic worldview. Being shaken up out of our slumber is not pleasant – it takes some effort to throw off the lethargy and the desire to just be fed, entertained, and kept busy enough that we don’t have to think about the road we’re on.
However, as someone once said, we can either be pulled by a vision or pushed by pain. If we put the vision of a better world out there and start to align our thoughts and actions with that vision, maybe the pain won’t have to be so great. If we begin to see that how we treat each other, how we think about people across the world, how we care for the earth and all life on it, and even how we think about and care for ourselves affects everything, we perhaps won’t be so careless about our thoughts, words, and actions. If we learn to return love for hate (not meaning that we will never protect our loved ones or our country, just that we keep our hearts open toward everyone), if we allow people to have their own thoughts and ideas even when we don’t agree with them, if we listen each day to the still, small voice inside of us and choose to follow that voice, if we refuse to put profit ahead of health and sustainability, if we live within our present means but remain generous, if we stretch ourselves enough to believe that we can not only survive but thrive well into old age if we care for ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and if we want all the good for others that we want for ourselves, we are reaching for that vision.
It simply can’t remain business as usual. Think for yourself about what you eat and how it’s raised, how the soil and animals are cared for, think about how you view and treat each human being that crosses your path today, think about your purchases – where they come from, the materials they are made of, and the people who make them, think about how you spend your time and how your children spend their time – is it in life-affirming, life-enhancing ways?, think about what you’ve been taught about God – as a man with a white beard in the sky who looks for people to mess up or pure Love who delights in you and in all of creation, wants you to live a life of purpose and fulfillment, and has allowed you to have free choice even when you miss the mark at times and have to live with the consequences?, think about the fact that you were created as a unique person with unique gifts and your greatest joy will be found in using those gifts in service to God, and think about the fact that if you are reading this, you are at a crossroads and need to decide – will I continue to live like the majority of the world lives or will I search my heart for a vision and then begin to follow that vision? “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find.”